IOWA CITY — Hoping the cold will fade and a feeling of renewal will soon take place isn’t just for those who want winter gone.
The Iowa men’s basketball team has hit a spot in the season where cold shooting and a weariness from it has affected it negatively. The Hawkeyes have gone from 9-5 in the Big Ten to 10-8, with games at Wisconsin Thursday night and Nebraska Sunday afternoon.
In the Hawkeyes’ last three home games — three of the last four games they’ve played — they shot 32.8, 41.9 and 35.7 percent from the field. They won the middle game, against Indiana in overtime. They fell in the other two, to Maryland and Rutgers.
“I think we’re taking good shots and the right people are shooting them,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said Tuesday. “We were shooting better for a while and then we haven’t been.”
The Hawkeyes shot 30.8 percent (37-of-120) from 3-point distance over their last five games after hitting 47.3 percent (35-of-74) in the four contests before that.
Joe Wieskamp was 1 of 7 in all field-goal tries in the last game. Jordan Bohannon was 6 of 20 over the last two games, Isaiah Moss 1 of 15 over the last three.
“You just get your shots up in practice and keep moving the ball,” McCaffery said. “Just make sure you’re shooting open shots and not contested shots. If you’re shooting contested 3s you’re not going to make them.
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“But I thought our looks were pretty good, and am just encouraging the guys to continue to shoot them. I think we had the right guys shooting them.”
Oh, how getting open matters. Ohio State freshman Justin Ahrens got open against Iowa last Tuesday in Columbus and made six 3-pointers in scoring 29 points. Freshman Ron Harper Jr., of Rutgers got open last Saturday and sank four 3-pointers while scoring 27 in his team’s win here.
Iowa? The shots weren’t so open. An out-of-sync offense has perhaps also drained some defensive energy. It’s March, and one freshman who had a lot of big moments before the last week is trying to catch a second wind.
“It’s a long season,” Wieskamp said. “We’ve been grinding since I got here in June. Just how much mental preparation goes into each game, focusing on the scouting report, the travel, just different things like that, the time commitment. It’s a mental toll.”
Wieskamp has had an issue with his back.
“The past couple days I’ve done a great job just getting treatment, got a massage last night, just doing things to try to keep my body fresh for the end of the season.”
The 20-game Big Ten season, with virtually no gimmes, is wearing on more teams than the Hawkeyes.
“It’s a shame what happened today,” Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said last Saturday after his team’s 63-62 loss at Indiana. “We just kind of ran out of gas.”
Last Thursday while Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh was being interviewed by an ESPN reporter while sitting in the front row of the Nebraska-Michigan men’s basketball game, Wolverines hoops coach John Beilein videobombed Harbaugh when he paced in front of him, putting his hands over his eyes and displaying facial expressions that conveyed sheer agony.
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It was Harbaugh-esque, actually. And Michigan won that game easily.
“I feel like maybe the entire Big Ten feels the same way,” Iowa center Ryan Kriener said about this point of the season. “Twenty conference games is a long season. You look around the entire country and there’s crazy games happening.”
Iowa’s next chance to escape its doldrums, at Wisconsin, is no spring picnic.
“We’ll try to get our minds refocused, recharged,” Wieskamp said, “and get our bodies the same way.”
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